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01-19-2009, 08:55 AM
Black-and-gold fans' faith rewarded with victory
By Chris Togneri, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, January 19, 2009


Linda Hoch feared the worst.

With the Baltimore Ravens trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers by just two points late in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game at Heinz Field Sunday night, Hoch, 59, of Pine Township sat inside the stadium and prayed that the home team's Super Bowl chances weren't slipping away.

"Oh, I was nervous," she said outside the stadium. "But then I saw Polamalu crossing himself like crazy, and I said, 'OK. It's going to be OK.' "

Seconds later, Polamalu intercepted a Joe Flacco pass and returned it for a touchdown, all but sealing the Steelers' 23-14 victory.

The game's signature play means the Steelers will play Feb. 1 in Tampa against the Arizona Cardinals with a shot at their second Super Bowl title in four years and their sixth overall. No NFL team has won six Super Bowls.

"I love it!" shouted Bubba Matesic, 42, of Kilbuck. "This is the second greatest day of my life -- behind Detroit!"

The Steelers' last Super Bowl victory, in 2006, was played in Detroit.

Matesic, who had hip replacement surgery in December, tailgated outside the stadium but did not go inside because he is still ailing. As the clock ran out, he pounded his walker on the ground, then grabbed a bottle of Black Velvet Canadian whiskey, hoisted it in the air and, before taking a swig, shouted:

"This is for you, Troy!"

Fans of all ages reacted in much the same way.

Though many of the record crowd of 65,350 admitted that they were nervous watching the Ravens claw back from 13-0 deficit, they said they were confident that the Steelers would go on to win the Super Bowl -- thus polishing off what has come to be know as "the six-pack" of rings.

"I'm ecstatic," said Mitchell Bachman, 12, of Butler. "The Super Bowl will be a piece of cake. 27-14 Steelers."

Bob Sobek, 58, of North Braddock nearly missed the climactic ending. He said he had to take his son home in the first half because he fell ill. Rather than watch the rest of the game at home, Sobek rushed back to the stadium and watched it on a television with some strangers in the parking lot.

After Polamalu's touchdown, he shouted, "Oh my God, I'm glad I got back here in time!"

Then he reached into his coat, pulled out a terrible towel and waved it in the air.

"Fantastic game," said Richard Jacobs, 48, of McCandless as he left the stadium. "I've been a Steeler fan my whole life and it's great to see them build a new tradition under Tomlin."

This is Coach Mike Tomlin's second year as head coach. He led the team to a 10-6 record in the regular season last year, then lost in the first round of the playoffs against Jacksonville.

The Steelers won Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV in the 1970s and Super Bowl XL in 2005. Their only NFL Championship defeat came to the Dallas Cowboys, 27-17, in Super Bowl XXX in 1995.

The victory meant more to some than others.

Dan Egan, 24, of Monaca said he is shipping off to Iraq on Feb. 3 for service in the Army.

"This team was built defense and toughness," he said. "Baltimore thought they were coming here with the same game but they couldn't match."

"You couldn't ask for anything more," said Egan, who doesn't expect to be able to attend another Steelers game until he returns from the service in 2011.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_607816.html